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Discuss the main social and economic factors which have affected the status of women since 1914.

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Introduction

Discuss the main social and economic factors which have affected the status of women since 1914. Over the last century, attitudes towards women have dramatically changed. There are many contributing factors, which have had an effect on the status of women during this period, such as improved healthcare, changes in education, legislation within the workplace, the right to vote, and divorce reforms. Although it is difficult to say which has had more effect, it would be agreed that each factor, has had a positive affect on all of the others. I believe that some of the major reforms, which have had an affect of the changing status of middle and working class women within the 20th century, can be attributed not only to the changes in attitudes towards marriage, and family life but also the implementation of free health care. Economically independent also play a significant part in the way women viewed their status. In this essay I will be briefly discussing the status of women before 1914, and the role they played within society. I will also be looking at the changes in women's attitudes towards marriage, and divorce. Along with the reforms to women's health care and any changes these had to their own views regarding their status. Additionally, I will then discuss the changes within women's roles within the work place, all of which all helped to change the preconceived idea of what a women's worth to society, truly was. Previous to 1914, social and economical attitudes towards women were generally consistent through out the classes. Women were considered as second-class citizens and inferior to men.1 Victorian idealism played a largely part in the status of women during this time. Emphasis concentrated on morals and respectability, as well as the duty of the woman to be a good wife and mother. Society came down hard on women who broke it code, therefore, girls were taught to be modest and subservient.2 Women had no rights to vote, free health care, education, or any employment benefits. ...read more.

Middle

Although many single women joined the movement, many married women still believed that 'a woman's place was in the home'. Even during this period women would still choose to leave the workplace once married and dedicate her-self to family life. 28 Although hugely important, the emancipation of women cannot solely be attributed to these changes in social stature. Another significant factor that helped the changing status has been their economical independency. Feminists such as Eleanor Rathbone began to realise the important of this precedent and claimed, 'that if women were to be equal partners in marriage it was not just enough for them to have the right to vote but they also need to be economically independent.' 29 Yet as previously stated, the economic dependency of women was largely on the same par as their social status before the two World Wars. Women were entitled to none of their own money, or any employment benefits. Therefore they were totally dependent on the men around them.30 Work was seen as something done out of necessity and had nothing to do with personal fulfilment. Therefore, women in the upper and middle classes were not expected to work. However, by 1851 Britain found herself with half a million surplus women, and due to an economic need, many had no other choice but to seek employment.31 However, restrictions due to social status dictated what sort of employment many women were able to seek, with women being barred from the profession such as Lawyers or Doctors.32 This meant that should middle classes girls need to find employment, they could only aspire to governess, nurse or a teacher.33 Whereas, working class girls fair less well, their choices could include either employment with the domestic service or the textile industry,34 However, with many women in service there were no employment laws or Trade Unions, to protect them. Thus many found arduous working conditions, hours long and with very little pay.35 When reforming middle class Britain, the Victorians determined that women needed protecting from unscrupulous work ethics as well as low morals standards within the work place. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although it is difficult to say which has had more affect, it can be largely agreed that the two major wars, had a great deal to do with the emancipation of women. Additionally control of personal issues such as the availability of contraception, and social security has also aided women. Women are now able to control their own lives and are no longer financially dependant on men. Thus, ensuring that society no longer viewed them as inferior or property of a man. 1 D.Taylor, Master Economic and Social history, Hants, Macmillan, 1988, p.464-465. 2 E.Smith, Class notes Victorian women myth and reality, p.1 3 D.Taylor, op.cit, p465 4 E.Smith, op.cit., p.3 5 Ibid., p.3 6 A.Holdsworth, Out of the dolls house, London, BBC Books, 1989, p.13 7 E. Smith, op. cit., p.3 8 A. Mayer, op.cit, p.25 9 Ibid., p.26 10 A. Mayer, op.cit, p.28 11 Ibid., p.29 12 Ibid., p.62 13 A.Holdsworth, op.cit, p.13 14 Ibid., p.25 15 A. Mayer, op.cit, p.88 16 Ibid., p.88 17 Ibid,. p.88 18 Ibid., p.88 19 A.Holdsworth, op.cit, p.13 20 Ibid., p.88 21 Ibid., p.88 22 Ibid., p.13 23 Ibid., p.13 24 Ibid., p.13 25 E.Smith, Class hand out women in the 20th century, p.7 26 A.Holdsworth, op.cit., p.154 27 Ibid., p.13 28 A. Mayer, op.cit., p.115 29 Ibid., p.13 30 D.Taylor, op.cit, p465 31 E.Smith, Class notes -Victorian Women -myth and reality, p.1 32 D.Taylor, op.cit, p465 33 Ibid,. p.465 34 Ibid,. p.465 35 A.Holdsworth, op.cit., p.64 36 Ibid., p.61 37 Ibid,. p.62 38 A. Mayer, op.cit., p.19 39 Ibid,. p.18 40 E. Smith class notes - Women in the 20th Century., p.1 41 A. Mayer, op.cit., p.55 42 E.Smith, op.cit., p.1 43 A. Mayer, op.cit., p.54 44 E.Smith, op.cit., p.4 45 A. Mayer, op.cit,. p.30 46 E.Smith, op.cit., p.5 47 A.Holdsworth, op.cit., p.14 48 A. Mayer, op.cit., p.94 49 A.Holdsworth, op.cit., p.14 50 Ibid., p.14 51 A. Mayer, op.cit., p.94 52 A.Holdsworth, op.cit., p.80 53 A.Holdsworth, op.cit., p14 54 Ibid., p.14 55 Ibid., p.14 56 Ibid., p.14 57 Ibid., p.14 58 Ibid., p.14 59 Ibid., p.83 60 Ibid., p.14 1 Terrie Knight:07/05/2007 ...read more.

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